Gilding of cards or books (never saddle-stitched ones) involves the heated application of coloured foil to the sanded edges of a book or single cards. Think of a book, like a Bible, which often has gilded edges.


Success story

A printer wanted us to gild perfect bound books with black foil. All foil gilding requires the sanding off of 1/32” of the surfaces (face, head and foot) to be gilded. We communicated with the client to make allowances for the sand when trimming the books. This job was a learning curve for us because I thought “black” was black! Apparently, there are several different blacks. Because of this, we then had to establish whether the printer (and ultimate customer) wanted a matte or shiny black. In the end, they chose shiny. The job was delivered on time and with the full count … absolutely no rejects!



  • From a functional standpoint, the foil protects the printed piece from environmental issues such as acidity, dampness and the natural oils of the human hand



  • Foil gilding dresses up a book or card set, in a classical and timeless way
  • Gilt edges on a book or card speak of prestige, trust and quality
  • In recent times, we’ve seen foil edge gilding make a major comeback and it’s no longer a finish reserved for leather case bound books.
  • Designers are now combining or adding this unique finishing process with other design elements.
  • Even though foil gilding is still unusual and differentiates a product, we produce gilded jobs on a regular basis.




  • Until recently, gold was basically the only colour that could be used … NOT NOW!
  • We can now foil gild scores of colours. About 75% of the colours that can be foil stamped on a flat sheet we can now foil gild. Keep this in mind when designing with corporate colours (think IBM blue, Scotiabank red, CN Rail orange, etc.).


Factors to consider

  • Time! These jobs don’t happen over night, so plan ahead.
  • We have to source your preferred colour of foil from any one of six suppliers
  • We may have to test a variety of foils for the best result … sometimes as many as four times for a job
  • Count on about a 4-5% spoilage rate
  • Gilding might be relatively expensive but this cost for the right project can be more than worthwhile!



Side Sewn

When a book is side-sewn, it means the text block consists of individual pages, as opposed to individual signatures. It’s also not a saddle-stitched book! The line of stitching is usually about 1/4” to 3/8” from the binding edge. We can extend the threads beyond the book so they are loose and we can run 2 or 3 lines of stitching for added uniqueness!



What’s the Appeal?

Side-sewn books stand out among other binding methods because the thread is visible on both the front and back covers. The vintage, stitched pattern of side-sewn books has also become very popular as a design element for projects. Also, the 100% cotton coloured thread is recyclable and can enhance the book’s design.



  • Exposed thread enhances the design
  • Side-sewn books are very durable, much more than regular perfect binding
  • There’s a huge selection of thread colours available on short notice
  • Both coated and uncoated stocks can be used so there is more flexibility for stock choice
  • Extra-thin books can be sewn with a zigzag pattern
  • Side-sewing can be used to rescue perfect bound books that are falling apart



Things to Consider

  • We sew 1/4” to 3/8” from the binding edge so extra space is required to ensure artwork and text are visible
  • Side-sewn books do not open flat so the designer has to take this into account
  • The grain direction of the stock must run parallel to the spine so this can affect the quantity of sheets required to complete a job
  • The maximum thickness of the books is 3/4”

Board Book?

A board book is printed on thick paper or paper board (think of children’s’ books). Sheets are printed on only one side and the same stock weight is used for both the cover and interior pages. Each page panel is a minimum of two thicknesses of the one-side printed sheets. Press sheets are cut to the open size of the book (plus trim) and then scored and folded in half with the print side in. The 4-page folded sections are full-surface glued together; the cover is wrapped around and glued. The finished books are then trimmed on three sides.

Why design a board book?
To grab and retain attention! Outside of children’s books, this type of book is rarely considered for marketing purposes. One of the best features of board books is that there is a guaranteed line-up of images on crossovers and that the style of book spine allows board books to lie flat when open (see image below).

Success story


The images above show a board book we made for a condo developer. This customer required the graphic designer and printer (our client) to design and produce 7,000 books that allowed the product to:

  • Display photos more effectively
  • Lie flat, when opened, on a coffee table
  • Differentiate the product advertised from others in the marketplace


  • Pages are …VERY thick … up to 60pt!!!
  • Square spine allows for superb shelf display


  • Board books are great for panoramas & landscapes because they achieve what no other binding method can: layflat pages with uninterrupted images through the spine!
  • Board books are the most indestructible of all book/binding styles—that’s why they’re used 99% of the time for children’s’ books.
  • Board books are the easiest binding style to PMC shape into ovals, circles etc. (see image below)

Factors to Consider

  • All sheets are printed only one side
  • Page counts can be misleading as we handle it as 4 pagers until they are glued to one another to become 2 pagers.
  • Board book thicknesses range from 3/8” to 3” thick
  • Board book sizes range from 2” square to 14” square
  • Board books can be edge-stained or gilded


Case Bound Book

Most often, a case bound book (sometimes called a hard cover book or edition bound book) has four distinctives:

  • Cover is hard or stiff
  • Covers are “wrapped”
  • Smythe sewn sections
  • Two end papers (inside the covers)

There are two exceptions:

  • Pages are perfect bound rather than Smythe sewn and then bound into a hard cover
  • Some covers—but very few—may be flexible rather than hard

Case Bound Book


Why design a case bound book?

People are fretting about whether their job or business will go the way of the dinosaur, buggy whip, or 8-track tape players. But for hard cover and case bound books, they’re only becoming increasingly popular!

Anatomy of a case bound book


The image above is a diagram of a case bound book. These are the basic elements of a case bound book:

  • Headbands are the ribbon that is inserted in the spine and shows at the top and bottom of the spine in the finished book
    • Headbands are purely decorative (no function) but may lend a vintage or design element to the finished book
    • Some case bound books have no headbands
    • About 30% of case bound books have no headband; of those which do, 70% have two headbands and 30% have one headband
  • End papers, until recently, were always white
    • Most end papers in case bound books, that we bind, are now coloured
  • 30% of the books, that we bind, are wrapped with printed litho sheets, rather than wrapped in cloth
  • Over 90% of the case bound books we bind are square-backed rather than round-backed spines
  • Dust jackets: case wrapped books that are only stamped can look very bland with dust jackets. Dust jackets give the book an esthetic or artistic appeal. The dust jacket sets the mood or tone of the book, positions it within its genre, or provides hard-hitting sales copy.

Case Binding



  • High-end
  • Lies open flatter than perfect bound books


  • One of the most durable binding methods
  • Stands on shelf with a readable spine
  • Can be easily referenced
  • Has universal appeal

Case Binding


Case Bound Book



  • Much wider range of materials to wrap cases
  • Designers are colour-matching end papers, head bands and ribbons
  • More unusual sizes are available
  • More high-end ‘coffee-table’ books are being produced locally rather than in China. Even though delivery time lines from China are shrinking, the increasing demand for even quicker turnaround times, designers’ creative input and last-minute changes account for the move away from use of offshore suppliers.
  • More add-ons such as various colours of thread in one book; metal corners; fold-outs; step-cutting; box sleeves; edge-staining; foil gilding are available from our firm.


Case binding: it’s back in style! ‘Old’ has become ‘new’. The classiest way to bind a book IS case binding!

Marketing Collateral

If you check definitions of marketing collateral, you’ll probably find five or six. Marketing collateral is often though to be things like business cards, brochures, price lists, catalogues and so on. What about presentation boxes as marketing collateral? We make presentation boxes in hundreds of all sizes, shapes, colours, textures and styles.

The following is a case study of 5,200 presentation boxes both we designed and produced for a major bank.

Case study:

What the client was looking for:

The recipients or end-users of the box are individuals of high net worth who expect only the best. How best to attract and retain their business?

The purpose of the boxes were to house one or two credit cards along with two important books containing the “small print” that the client would retain for later reference, to avoid misunderstanding and mistakes.

The End Product


This image shows the box lined with red velvet, which lends an understated elegance; a centre “well” was formed to house two books.


The presentation box shown above is wrapped in a man-made (synthetic) material that looks like leather. This material was then foil stamped and we added a unique closure method we developed.

IMG_5033 IMG_5020

These images show the ribbon used as “lifter” to help remove the boxes from the well.


  • Opening the box is easy; no instructions are needed.
  • The plush velvet interior usually ‘awes’ the client!
  • The box is attractive and sturdy: highly unlikely to be thrown out.


The box we designed met the crucial make-or-break requirements of our client:

  • Box neatly displayed and held one or two credit cards and two books
  • Visual attraction, usefulness of box would lead the end user to keep the books and refer to them, reducing phone calls, emails, misunderstanding and mistakes
  • Box easily couriered to clients without any damage

Success story:

  • The 5,200 units were produced at a cost that stayed within a pre-established budget (there were no nasty, last-minute surprises!)
  • All 5,200 units were delivered on time!
  • All the boxes were of superb quality, with absolutely zero “rejects”

Giant Perfect bound book

It’s a perfect bound book that is very, very wide! Width from spine (binding edge) to the face (where the pages open) can measure from 12” to 20”.

Why design and print a giant perfect bound book?

It grabs and retains attention! It is the wide, oblong or landscape style look that really impacts people. Most people have never seen a perfect bound book with widths from 12” to 20”.

Most of the giant books we have produced are sales tools or marketing collateral—particularly to sell high-end homes, condos or buildings.

Success story!

A real estate agent in Miami was the ultimate client and our client, a Boston-based printer, needed 3,700 giant perfect bound books in a ridiculously tight time line—and we did it!

In house, we have produced quantities from 30 to 30,000 giant perfect bound books.

53 4 1 2


  • Width from 12” to 20”
  • Bound with P.U.R. glue (more durable)


  • Pages lie flatter than regular-sized perfect bound books (because of the extended width)
  • Allows for more dramatic use of photos—bigger range of photo sizes and placement.
  • Book is memorable and far less likely to hit the recycling bin.
  • Book often becomes a ‘coffee table book’ because it does not fit on a regular bookshelf.
  • Because the book is likely to be on a table or desk, it is in plain sight and is viewed more often.

Interesting Facts about all our giant perfect bound books:

  • 100% are “lap glued”
  • Average width is 13 ¼”
  • 92% are ¼” thick or less
  • 100% are packaged in custom-sized boxes
  • 28% have mixed stock
  • 100% are coated stock

Factors to Consider

  • Grain of the paper on both covers and pages MUST run parallel to the binding edge
  • Glue for binding giant perfect bound books MUST be P.U.R.
  • Because of the highly unusual size of the book, plan early on how the book is to be distributed. Will it be distributed in person? Will it require a custom envelope or box size? May be accompanied by a slip case? (We make slip cases too.)

Please stop by our showroom at 946 Warden Avenue (just south of the 401) to see samples. Because of size reasons, we cannot send samples of this product.

Z-Fold/ Zeddie Pak/ Z-Card

A Z-fold card (also known as a Z-CARD) is a multi-panel brochure with two larger cover cards glued on the opposite sides of the piece.

 Fly Smart

But, a photo doesn’t do a Z-fold card justice. You really have to touch, open and close one to see the genius of it. We will gladly send you samples at no cost. We really think you need to see one!

Success story!

Over 2 billion Z-fold cards have been produced worldwide in the last 20 years!
City maps have been Z-fold card folded to fit in a pocket…
Instructions sheets have been Z-fold card folded…

Features of Z-fold cards

The diagram below shows one of the many folding sequences that can be utilized. Two opposite corner panels are blank on one side, where the cover cards are glued. By pulling the two cards apart, the entire sheet magically unfolds and with another motion, refolds into the original configuration.


The folded piece is centered on two larger cover cards.

Benefits … why bother with Z-fold cards?

Our Z-fold card grabs attention because the unique folder is irresistible-you just have to open and close it. The end user will read it, use it, remember it and keep it!

Factors to consider:

  • Popular misconceptions:
    1. There is still a patent on Z-fold cards.  The patent expired in 2010. Therefore, no royalty or user fees are required to produce Z-fold cards.
    2. There is a limited number of templates, layouts, sizes. Not true—we do have custom configurations or standard “Z-fold card” sizes.
  • We deal with ONLY graphic designers and printers—we DO NOT approach your clients directly.
  • We and only one other company produce this product in Canada.

What you might not know:

  • We have produced quantities from 100-150,000
  • Our average run length is 2,450
  • 92% of the Z-fold cards we have produced have rounded corners
  • 78% of our Z-fold cards were run on 50-pound offset; lighter stock works better because the product lies flatter and is more compact.


The Z-fold card pictured above has an additional feature: a slit in the front card allows for the insertion of a business card or loyalty card.

This second, Z-fold card is similar to the one above with one difference: the front card is a glued pocket, into which a business card or loyalty card can be inserted–instead of a slit.

Laser diecutting?

In the simplest terms, a laser diecutting machine uses a laser to completely cut through paper. Since no physical cutting tools make contact with the paper, the level of detail possible in the laser cut design is primarily limited by the durability required of the finished product. Designs are created when the moving laser cuts intricate designs into the paper.

Success Story: In the picture above, you can see delicate hairline thin pieces of the design.  In the planning stage of this job, we tried three different coloured blue cover weight stocks. While a member of the graphic arts industry might note the difference, the different stock would appear identical to a lay person. The first stock we tested had a light blue burn line a quarter an inch wide around the image, which was unacceptable. The next stock we tested, the hairline connector pieces disintegrated. The third stock was successful and we produced 7,000 laser diecut portfolios.

Laser Diecutting

The Future of Laser Diecutting
Laser diecutting, as a graphic arts medium, is still relatively in its infancy. Though it has been used successfully by most greeting card companies for over 20 years, it is just now beginning to find a much wider use in the graphic arts industry.

Features of Laser Diecutting 
•    Unbelievably, intricate fine detail
•    Wide range of applications
•    Great for short runs
•    Creates a lot of opportunities for a designer’s imagination

Benefits of Laser Diecutting

•    Can produce more intricate and finer designs that cannot be done by other methods like steel rule die cutting
•    No dies are needed, which can shorten the production time because the time to create a die is eliminated
•    The process is chemical-free and there is little to no waste

Factor to Consider

Many companies provide laser diecutting services for trophies, signs and plaques made out of glass, wood and steel. Laser diecutting on paper, however, requires a different skill set since the heat of the laser can sometimes create some discolouration or laser burn around the design on one side of the sheet of paper. This can be worked around by printing a neutral colour on the target side, designing the piece so that the target side is not seen or using the discolouration as part of the design, such as an ‘antique’ look to a lace pattern. The best way, however, to avoid laser burn is to choose a paper stock that cuts cleanly in the early design stages.

Having the stock you plan to use tested is the best way to avoid quality surprises later on. Testing should ordinarily be a free service, and I encourage customers to supply various stocks for testing. In the quoting stage, we often recommend two or three different stocks.

Laser Cutting – How to Make That Special Project Stand Out

At Specialties Graphic Finishers many of our processes are based on historic printing and binding methods but with the most modern up-to-date technology. Founded in 1939 we are one of North America’s premier graphic finishing houses. With our expert staff located in Toronto, Ontario, we are able to help clients with the most complex projects. From banks to museums, from small companies to large, we are able to design and produce pieces that will help communicate your vision to your clients.

Laser cutting was originally used in the 1960’s for cutting metals for industrial use, then in the 1970’s the technology evolved using CO2 which allowed lasers to cut materials such as fabric and paper. Laser diecutting machines allowed designers to create intricate designs in a wide variety of mediums. Previous to this intricate cutting of paper or fabric would have to be done by hand thus greatly increasing the time it took to produce items and the cost of the product. Laser diecutting has greatly reduced the time needed to produce intricate projects.

One of the first industries that used laser diecutting was the greeting card industry; fancy designs for cards became very popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In the past decade laser diecutting has become increasingly popular with marketing professionals and at Specialties Graphic Finishers we work closely with marketing teams to produce unique and memorable pieces to promote a product which are often used for a special event or campaign.

The possibilities with laser diecutting are immense. Depending on your final product and its use we will work closely with you from the outset to choose the correct paper for your project. Depending on the intricacy of your design the paper choice is one of the most important decisions you will make; if your end product is something that will be handled extensively by your customers you will want to choose a paper stock that is both durable and attractive. Designs using laser diecutting can be incredibly intricate since there are no physical tools making contact with the paper. Another important thing to keep in mind with paper choice is that the heat of the laser can at times produce discolouration on one side of the paper. Our designers have years of experience with this issue and can advise you on how to best avoid this discolouration or how to incorporate this effect into your project. In the quoting phase we often include two or three examples of stock to test on. Many times we can work with the clients to create a design and choose a paper that has no discolouration at all.

Due to our decades of experience we love working with clients on complex and interesting projects – we love the challenge! We often find that laser diecutting projects involve multiple components. To give you an example of what we do, here are some of the most interesting and exciting projects we have worked on:

RBC folder

We were approached by RBC who wanted to create a special laser cut portfolio for their clients. As you can see in the photo this design included delicate hairline. To achieve this design we tested the laser diecutting on three different paper stocks; in the end we produced 7,000 portfolios for RBC.

High Level Museum Donor Boxes

Recently we worked with a client who wanted something extra special for their high-level donors. The goal was to produce 1,000 presentation pieces that could be safely couriered to high net worth donors asking for donations to a museum expansion project. This piece was an important part of their fundraising campaign and we worked closely with the client to make sure all of their design needs were met. The piece had to be able to withstand packaging and courier service, be easy to use and highly visual all while conveying the message the museum was attempting to convey. As you can see the end product was very successful and the client was thrilled. We were able to use several methods including: foil stamping, letterpress printing, diecutting, debossing, embossing and hand gluing certain elements in place. In the end there were five elements in this exciting project which allowed the recipient to interact with the piece. 1,000 pieces were mailed out and were an incredible success for the museum!

3D Cards

Some of our favourite projects include 3D designs. Often our clients will ask for a card which includes a 3D design element; these can be used as greeting cards, invitations or announcements for a major event. At Specialties Graphic Finishers our designers can help you create a fun 3D design that will be both functional and memorable. We are able to finish 3D projects either with machine folding or hand folding. Below are some of our favourite 3D designs we have produced.

Whether you have a small or large project that requires laser diecutting please give us a call so we can help you design and produce an exciting, innovative and memorable printed piece! Our expert team of designers at Specialties Graphic Finishers look forward to working with you.



Why do designers and printers use flocking?What is it?Flocking is a decorative process that gives images a raised, velvet-like look and feel. Occasionally, you see it on wallpaper or T-shirts. As a designer or printer, you should aware of:

  • what flocking is
  • how to use it
  • features and benefits.
Success story: This picture is the front cover of a case bound/hard covered book we bound for a printer in Calgary. The wording “ROAD TRIPS” is the fuzzy material called flocking. Beneath the flocking, the words “& others diversions” is normal black offset printing.  It is very hard to photograph flocking in a way to effectively shows you what it is actually like.  With each blog I give you an opportunity to request a sample.  Usually a description of a product and pictures give you a good understanding of some unusual processes, but in the case of flocking I highly recommend that you request a sample. You have to see flocking and feel it, to really understand what it is.How is it done?
Flocking is a process of dropping millions of miniature fibers called ‘flock’ on a wet pattern-glued surface. Described as simply as possible:

  • Sheets up to 20 X 26 are printed in the normal process leaving blank the areas where flocking is to be applied
  • Wet glue is applied to the areas to be flocked
  • Flocking material (fibres) is dropped onto the glued surface areas

Factors to consider:

  • Pantone colour matching may be available for an up charge of approximately $1000.
  • Only one colour of flocking per pass can be done; two colours require two passes

In the future, I expect to see more flocking in the marketplace—because it differentiates your product; flocking is relatively rare; end users are drawn to touch the flocking……its’ tactile.

Saddle Sewing

I goofed in last weeks’ blog.  I forgot to mention that I also own Specialties Graphic Finishers.  Both Anstey and Specialties do the unusual jobs.  Specialties works with the customers printed paper and produces larger jobs on automated machines.  Anstey jobs are of a low quantity, Anstey supplies most of the material and the jobs are very labour intensive.

Saddle Sewing

Why sew anything when there’s good old-fashioned staples (or saddle stitching), paperback book style (or perfect binding) or … all those other options? In a word, sewn books, pamphlets and so on have ‘CHARACTER’. They will stand out, won’t be forgotten or tossed into the round bin on the floor.

Today’s terminology is saddle sewing, once known as either “Singer sewing” or centre sewing decades ago. These earlier terms are not used as much any more, in part because Singer is a largely forgotten sewing machine brand and second, centre sewing is something of a misnomer or mistaken description.

So, pretty much every graphic designer, estimator or marketer knows what saddle stitching is:  metal staples—sometimes in various colours.

(maximum of 20 colours that I know of)—along the spine or binding edge of a booklet.

What does a saddle sewn book or tag look like?

IMG_4396 IMG_4389 IMG_4354 ANSTEY-299-1030x686 IMG_7652

Factors to consider:

Colour tests to ensure that colour of thread on the book is what you have in mind

Decision on saddle sewing must be made BEFORE layout:

  • A large run will need a lip on high folio
  • Similar technical, physical requirements to saddle stitching
  • ‘Push-out’ or ‘shingling’ (as does saddle stitching) requires particular care at the layout stage to ensure correct line-up of graphics in the finished product

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